Thursday, May 29, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have attempted to plant a vegetable garden. Last year I killed no less than 5 houseplants, so I don't have high hopes. But I just can't get this romantic scenario out of my head where I traipse out to the garden each afternoon to pick what we need for dinner, stopping a minute to milk the cow and grab a few eggs from the chicken coop. Ok we don't have a cow or chickens, but there's something so lovely about 'living off the land' right? Plus I am going broke trying to buy organic food, so I figure growing my own might be cheaper.

Farming fantasies aside, I am learning a lot in my garden. First of all, I am acquiring a healthy hatred/respect for weeds. It is crazy to me that some plants have to be tediously tended and might die from the slightest imbalance of pH in the soil, while a weed will thrive and spawn thousands of offspring even if (or perhaps especially if) you ignore it.

As I spent time last weekend clearing some space for my tomatoes, I noticed something about weeds: the bigger roots are easier to pull out than the small ones. I mulled this over as I squatted in the dirt. I pictured God as a gardener in my life, tending to the good things He is growing in me, pruning and weeding. I thought about times in my life when God has pulled up some monstrous roots - big, ugly, obvious sins that were crowding out the faith, hope and love He had planted. Then I thought about all the little pesky roots... the ones that aren't as easy to pull because they aren't as obvious, but they still cause harm in the garden. A line from a Derek Webb song came to mind, "I repent...for the way I believe that I'm living right, by trading sins for others that are easier to hide."

God is working on my heart, just as I am working in my garden. He is pruning and weeding and preparing to plant, tend, and harvest. But He is a gentle gardener who chooses to only work on us when we give Him permission. I am free to live in the midst of weeds and thorns if I wish. But today I will try to live in submission, asking him in, allowing him to do as he pleases with me, whether it be painfully pulling up roots or joyfully harvesting a good crop.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Praying Small

I spent a few hours last Tuesday by my sister's hospital bed. When the nurse granted Courtney a two-hour "get out of jail" pass, I helped her get out of one hospital and into another so she could spend some time by her son's bedside in the NICU.

The obvious question that rises out of my family's current circumstances is Why? Why does the 24 year-old mother of a NICU baby get gall stones and need to be hospitalized herself? Why does a young couple dealing with the hardest imaginable situation have to also struggle through living apart for months? Why does financial hardship arise the same week as a brutal infection in their tough but fragile infant?

To be honest, there's no point in asking those questions. As trite as it may sound, it is not for us to know. And if somehow God decided to break character and actually tell us, would we want to know? Now there's a question.

So I don't know why these things have happened, are happening. But one blessing of being so close to this situation is that I am drawn in, not only to the pain, but also to the joy of the daily miracles God is doing. A successful post-surgery extubation. A long cuddle for mum and baby. A quiet day together as a family. Simple and tiny things, but important and vital things that make it possible for Courtney and Jesse to face each day. Subtle yet clear signs that God is present. God is faithful. God is good.

When I look at the horrific tragedies that are playing out around the world, in places like Burma, Sudan, Uganda, I am led to pray for these small miracles. Of course I pray for the big miracles too: complete healing for Asher, restoration and recovery in Burma, peace in Sudan and Uganda. But I am learning the value of the smallest miracles in the midst of great suffering. God feed the hungry, even if it is one crumb at a time. Father bring peace to the war zone, even if it is only one less bullet today. Jesus show us you are with us, even in the tiniest of ways. Amen.